Aug. 22 2013 07:24 PM

If a finance person is asked what they do, they quickly adjust to a higher plane of GDP or moves by the Fed. We in the supply chain could position ourselves better with everyone we meet. For instance, elaborating on inventory controls or pick, pack and ship does not rise high enough on the bar of what is really going on. Here are some thought provokers that show how you “Get It”:

I. Berlin was revolutionized by Reagan’s challenge to Gorbachev to take down the wall and Pink Floyd produced a masterpiece about it. The Netherlands built and maintain a sophisticated series of dikes. Boston slugged through ten years of the “Big Dig.” San Francisco has the Golden Gate. Austin is considering putting I-35 underground and is certainly building vertically at rapid speed. The Lake Ponchartrain causeway north of New Orleans is the longest bridge in the world. Over, under, around and through are the mantra to improve logistics and therefore the movement of people and freight for the supply chain.
II. The Clip-Air project envisions removable modular air and rail transport for people and freight
III. Larry Ellison of Oracle now owns the Island of Lanai in Hawaii and is installing electrical charging stations and desalinization plants
IV. Google, Amazon and eBay are all testing same day service on a magnitude of scale
V. Trains are now carrying crude oil from North Dakota 
VI. Amtrak offers an intermodal service for train to bus from Sacramento to San Francisco; I took it recently for $27 (If you could drive for that price, including tolls, parking would be $30 on top)
VII. The USPS just published a white paper called The Global Logistics Revolution: A Pivotal Moment for the Postal Service. It is 28 pages in length and covers everything from borders easier to ship through, digital advancements and shipping costs not lowering while manufacturing pricing is
VIII. Mobile smart phone growth is astonishing. Especially for making purchases
IX. Illegal entry from Mexico to the USA is on an upward growth in Texas and they have used everything from catapults, bribery, tunnels, trucks, containers, pipelines and submarines to import people and drugs 
X. Recently installed three bird feeders in my backyard and have been outwitted by squirrels ever since: Covered the two magnolia trunks with roof flashing coated with silicon, cut down three adjacent trees they were leaping from and have seen them jump five feet from the ground to hook one foot onto the feeder to boost themselves up. This seems to show that pursuit of supply chain efficiency is primal and not limited to just humans. The plus is 20+ species of birds (including the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered species that lives only in central Texas) enjoying that the squirrels have a tougher time hitting an easy to access food source.

Right after Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he began forming NeXT Computer. As a logistics representative, I was meeting with him when by chance his ad agency presented the new NeXT logo which was enthusiastically accepted by all of us. The meeting was electric with Steve jumping to the white boards on all four walls and continuously writing with both hands. We started discussing the white box his small team envisioned as packaging and he suddenly declared the box should be black and so should the computer casing. The room erupted with Black Box being celebrated. The case was manufactured from die-cast magnesium. NeXT was eventually sold to Apple and of course Steve built a legend at Apple and Pixar.

The combination of creative thinking “in and out of the box,” listening carefully to customer input and utilizing technology will continue to drive important changes. Think big and make sure you articulate a wide spectrum when asked what your work is all about. If more of us “Get It” the value of supply chain expertise will continue to surpass other career paths.

Rob Shirley is President of ExpresShip, a strategic consultancy in the global supply chain for contact: email or visit